Huskies repeat at home meet
EAGLE-VAIL ” It’s about the Fab Five, not the Fab Four.
There’s the perception of Battle Mountain cross country that the team’s heart is its four main seniors ” John O’Neill, Jonny Stevens, Jamie Fahrmeyer and Tony Crisofulli.
But you need five to score in cross country, so make way for Mario Gonzalez. The sophomore made a late surge in Saturday’s Battle Mountain Invitational, helping the Huskies, ranked No. 1 in 4A, knock off Arapahoe, No. 4 in 5A, 39-42, win their home meet for the second year in a row.
“In our practice Thursday, we had him run with us like it was a race simulation,” Battle Mountain’s Crisofulli said. “It paid off. He stayed with me the whole race. We defeated them, thanks to Mario.”
“He’s a sophomore and the expectation among everybody is that he runs with the seniors,” Huskies coach Rob Parish said. “He’s definitely having to mature and take a lot of responsibility. The whole week in practice, we’ve been working on him running as the five of them, not the four of them. The whole focus was to get him to think he can run with them.”
Doing the math
While 13 teams were in the boys’ race, it was pretty much a duel between the Huskies and the Warriors. John O’Neill, finished second, beating Arapahoe’s top runner. Jamie Fahrmeyer took sixth, Jonny Stevens eighth and Crisofulli 11th, but each was one spot behind their Warriors’ counterparts.
Down three points, Gonzales had to beat Arapahoe’s fifth harrier by three spots. He picked up five.
“Mario pushed it in that last lap. He’s definitely the reason we won,” O’Neill said. “That’s great because he hasn’t been having the greatest season so far, but he was there when we needed him.”
And as a result, the Huskies won their second regular-season home meet in as many years, and knocked off the 5A Warriors.
“It’s great for those guys,” Parish said. “They’ve worked so hard to get to that point and it’s no accident that they’re doing what they’re doing. They didn’t leave anything to chance. It’s great because a majority of those guys are seniors. Those top-four guys want to make their last season something they would be very proud of. They certainly have done that.”
Who’s No. 1?
O’Neill continued his spectacular season, completing the tough Eagle-Vail course in 17 minutes, 25 seconds. O’Neill and company kept to the script relatively well, by running the first of the two loops of the course more conservatively and then turning up the jets on the last lap.
“At the top of the hill (the first time), I was like seventh,” he said. “I just slowly moved up. We executed our plan pretty well, going out pretty conservatively and hammering the second lap.”
O’Neill finished only behind Rocky Mountain’s Andrew McGee (17:10).
The ever-steady Fahrmeyer clocked a 17:41, following by Stevens (17:48), Crisofulli (18:05), Gonzalez (18:14), Conor Wallace (16th, 18:44) and Michael Hand (20:15).
Stevens was clearly hampered by his recent travels to Switzerland to compete in the Junior World Trail Running Championships. He started out with McGee in his sights for the first half of the race before fading, by his standards, in the second lap.
While Stevens will doubtless rebound for Friday’s meet at Columbine, O’Neill has done his best to make it a healthy competition for the top spot on the team.
“John’s assumed the No. 1 runner role and he doesn’t look like he’s ready to relinquish that, which is fantastic,” Parish said. “On any given day, any one of those four can finish in any order. That’s a great thing from a team standpoint.”
Battle Mountain’s girls used home-course knowledge to take fourth place with 102 points behind Summit (40), Arapahoe (51) and Rocky Mountain (69).
Jessica Linder took eighth in 22:22 to finish eighth.
“I was a little bit tired, but I felt I ran strong,” Linder said. “It’s just all a matter of what mental state you’re in on a certain race day. Of course, if you’re completely and utterly focused, you’ll have a better race. Today, I was pretty focused, and I felt pretty good, but I have the ability to kick it in and get into a better mental state to run.”
Cecilia Garcia ran one of the best races of her career for a 22:42 and 12th. McKenzie Stevens followed in 25th, despite some jet lag that caught her in the second go-round.
“It definitely helps when you’re in a race and there are people around you,” Stevens said. “You stop thinking about the hill and you start thinking about your position in the race. That definitely helps, that and the fact that we’ve run it all the time.”
Amelia Ortiz was 29th in 23:47. Kenzie Grant made a triumphant return to varsity after recovering from an ACL injury. She was 30th (22:53).
“I think we were all really nervous,” Grant said. “But I think we knew the course well, so we had an advantage. We worked really well as team. Parish always thinks we can push a little harder. We’ll work on that. Otherwise, it was a nice day to run.”
Jamie Lee Roberts (34th, 24:34) and Alexa Flowers (49th, 26:48) rounded it out for the Huskies.
Both sets of Huskies definitely fed off the home crowd. Parents and students lined the course, making it a fun day for the harriers to show off their skills.
“It’s great to have everybody out here,” O’Neill said. “It seemed like the whole top of the hill was lined with people cheering. I came around the backside of the (Eagle-Vail) Pavilion and there were people just yelling. That made all the difference.”
“We had a lot of support from friends,” Grant said. “It was really nice. It felt like I had a lot of support throughout the race.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or
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